Cycling your stunning countryside in the days before the big lockdown

April 24th, 2020 7:10 AM

By Southern Star Team

Katie working her way up towards Tragumna on the Haven Coast

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Americans Bay Stephens and his wife were enjoying their year-long adventure in West Cork with many plans for touring the countryside – and then a pandemic hit

WE were off to such a good start, meeting locals, enjoying the pubs and coffee shops, getting library cards – then the pandemic struck.

Now we’re bereft of the charm of Irish social life. But thankfully, the people aren’t the only charm West Cork has to offer two visiting Americans.

To rid ourselves of cabin fever, my wife Katie and I took a cycle around the countryside of Skibbereen on a fine day before the country came under compulsory lockdown.

To start our grand adventure, we huffed up Skibbereen’s High St and soon were gliding by cute country homes, wheezing past staring dairy cows and, after only a few wrong turns, descending the steep hill into Castletownshend.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch overlooking the bay from St Barrahane’s Church while the sun bathed the ancient stone in warmth and seagulls arced on ocean breezes before us.

So delightful were the weather and setting that our journey nearly ended there with naps in the sun.

But we mustered ourselves, mounted our bikes, then proceeded to dismount upon trying to ascend the Castletownshend hill. I should clarify that I walked. Katie power-pedaled to the top and waited for me. Here’s to marrying a woman who’s tougher than you are.

We then headed down the coast road toward Tragumna, beginning to grasp the hilliness of the local terrain. The joy of any downhill was soon squashed by the next glowering uphill. Over and over again. I counted my blessings, though. The world over, social distance or lockdown binds people to their homes or, in big cities, little apartments.

Yet here, we were still allowed the pleasure of cycling Ireland’s verdant coast. That was then, of course.

As we biked around Toe Head Bay, the gratefulness really set in. Katie and I are still getting used to the open sea, so the rich teal of the waves and the fuzzy line where the blue of the ocean meets that of the sky compelled us to stop, stare and take photos. Stunning.

We weren’t alone in enjoying the delightful day on the Wild Atlantic Way. We passed cyclists who knew what they’re doing … well, they passed us. We waved at walkers in twos and threes, all of whom were keeping a responsible 2m distance between other walking groups.

We even biked by one woman asleep in her car as the sun beamed in and the waves drummed a lullaby on nearby rocks.

Upon finding Tragumna, we skipped dinner-plate shaped rocks. I don’t know if anyone here realises this, but the rocks are purple. They’re beautiful and varied shades, but they’re purple. Growing up in the States, the rocks were usually brown, grey, or black. Purple rocks are a nice change.

As the sun slid West, we zig-zagged toward Lough Hyne, spitting out midges and wondering if we lost our way. But we found it at last, and 33.5km later, climbed the last hill away from the lake to cruise on home.

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